Five of the best Melbourne independent designers


’Tis the season for mass mindless consumption – or is it? If you’re on the lookout for truly original and independent fashion ideas, bypass the traditional Boxing Day sales and check out the work of these up-and-coming Melbourne designers who will put you right on the edge in the fashion stakes. They prove there is more to Melbourne fashion than wearing black.

1. Damien Yip Studios

Damien Yip grew up in Brisbane and says much of his initial fashion inspiration came from his mother’s sewing. This fascination grew into a proclivity for making clothes for himself as a teenager, and eventually being offered the chance to work on a small clothing collection with Authority Clothing.

In the past year, Yip’s fashion work has blossomed into completing an entire collection and making a short film as part of Fred Hates Fashion at Melbourne spring fashion week 2014.

“My fashion influences come from construction/tectonics and how I can achieve an outcome that is both functional and expressive,” Yip says. “I am also an avid collector of Junya Watanabe’s work – so his precedence offers me many lessons.”

Now permanently based in Melbourne, Yip says the city offers a dynamic fashion scene but he is attempting to appeal to more “universal objectives” in his design challenges.

“My biggest influences are music and craftsmanship, and a faithful optimism in the future,” he says.

2. Penny Drop

Penny Hale (of the label Penny Drop) says she was drawn into fashion from a young age when she used to make clothes for her Kelly Doll with remnants from her mum’s sewing machine. “Mum was a pretty badass sewer, making me intricate smocked dresses, which I refused to wear after about my fourth birthday. I was keen to develop my own aesthetic from a young age.”

She ended up studying fashion at RMIT and landed costuming roles for theatre and film productions.

She says that being on a student budget means that “whatever I can get my hands on tends to inspire creativity”, citing a recent example of using bags of hair clippings from a hairdresser friend, dying them and using them for makeshift felting to create a “screaming voodoo/witchcraft vibe”.

Penny says it’s still early days for her fashion career but she is constantly searching for “that sweet spot” between form and function, pitching her work directly at the Melbourne underground.

“I think the colourful nature of my designs appeals to the club, bar, doof, festival kids of Melbourne, suggesting there is a dire need for them to be washable, durable, affordable, comfortable and a bit of a visual playground. I keep my fingers crossed that people will embrace the colour.”

3. Sprinkle Magic

Something of a Melbourne institution, Sprinkle Magic operates out of her small store on Lygon Street in Carlton, creating stylish clothes that she says aim to “silhouette womanly curves, not hide them”.

Although having never studied fashion, Sprinkle has been involved in the Melbourne fashion industry for more than 20 years and regularly pulls together cabaret and fashion shows. She previously ran a Melbourne club that had a dress-up theme every month.

Her clothes have been bought and worn by Cyndi Lauper, as well as many Australian performers including Yana Alana, Tism and the Town Bikes.

Many of Sprinkle’s clothes have a vintage feel with a modern twist, but she says she is “heavily influenced by fabrics, people, places and my imagination”.

“Strong, intelligent, sexy women inspire me and influence the way I design clothes. Women that aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd and show their strength of character.”

4. Chris Avery

Starting his career as an architect, Chris Avery says he found himself overwhelmed by the rules and regulations of an industry that stifled his creativity.

He left architecture after six months and went travelling through Asia and Europe and found inspiration from traditional religious and cultural dress – from Indian Kutas to Russian monks and Thai traditional dancers.

“There was this aura around them – where every one who wore them wore these clothes with such pride no matter how good or bad their social economic status was. This is what led me to fashion. Being able to take that feeling and translate it into menswear, by pushing the boundaries and allowing men to dress outside of social conforms.”

The past two years have brought considerable success and exposure to Avery’s work, which has been featured at Melbourne spring fashion week, the American Beauty Show in Chicago, and featured as part of a fashion conference at a women’s university in Saudi Arabia.

He says: “If I can make someone feel true about who they are through the dress that I make, then my job as a designer is complete.”

5. Edgeley

Alice Edgeley started out working on costumes as a child, but moved from costume to fashion and now tries to keep a foot in each camp. As a self-made clothing designer, she learned her craft on the job, now operating a small boutique in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, where she spends her days cutting up and sewing garments between serving customers.

“Last September, during Melbourne spring fashion week, I had my first fashion show for Edgeley. It was a group show called Fred Hates Fashion and mine was in collaboration with Tusler (a leather accessories designer). We also made a fashion film called I Woke Up Like This. It was heaps of fun, hard work and really scary and stressful but well worth it.”

Drawing her influence from classic films such as Irma la Douce and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Edgeley says she designs clothes that she would want to wear in Melbourne, but she also has dream locations in mind. “So I’ll imagine a catsuit to wear to a bar or club or a ruffly top to wear on holiday sitting on the deck having an aperitif,” she says.

This article first appeared in the Guardian Australia

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